Panasonic to Return to F1 with Sauber?

Kamui Kobayashi's audacious overtaking maneuvers during last weekend's Japanese Grand Prix might turn some sponsors from his native country around and get them to reconsider their F1 involvement. According to the latest rumor in the national media, it seems that Osaka-based Panasonic Corporation might be planning an F1 return with Peter Sauber's team.

The reports show that Panasonic officials proceeded to meet with both Sauber and Kobayashi shortly after the Japanese GP, in order to set up a new sponsorship deal.

After the race at Suzuka on Sunday, Sauber's executive Monisha Kaltenborn told the media that she hopes Kobayashi's entertaining performance over the weekend will attract some Japanese sponsors, despite the still shady economic climate of the country.

Apparently, Panasonic is planning to back the 24-year old driver in the F1 series next year, having already supported Kobayashi's career in the past, through his European F3 and GP2 championships. It all culminated last year, when the same sponsor pushed for Kobayashi's debut in the series with Toyota, another long-time backer of the talented young Japanese driver.

At the end of last year however, Panasonic left the Great Circus along with Toyota, despite having signed a sponsorship deal with the team until 2012. As the Cologne-based outfit was never purchased by an F1 investor, the sponsor decided not to continue their involvement in the championship, not even to back their former driver for a racing spot.

Peter Sauber himself admitted, in a recent interview with the media, that Kobayashi earned his race seat with the Swiss team solely based on talent, as he didn't come with any major sponsors to back him in the series. However, with his latest performance in front of his home crowd, the Japanese racer will surely become the target for some attractive sponsorship deals, especially since he already signed an extension to his current deal with Sauber for 2011.
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